No more room for nuance

2018-07-05 06:00

THERE is a new war that seems to be erupting from beneath the surface in this country. It is not one that is based on race, religion or ethnicity, nor is it based on our own long and conflict-ridden past.

It is an imported conflict, yet the lines in the ground are clearly drawn ... you are either for Israel or against it; no longer is there an opportunity for a nuanced approach.

Once, you could support Israel’s right to exist, but not each and every policy — an approach that would serve every single other country in the world. But not Israel. Not anymore. Now, any expression of support for that country, whether it be simply stating the facts or expressing a personal opinion on it, is regarded as beyond the pale and anyone who does so is seen as a legitimate target for the most horrific bullying, including even death threats... Facts count for little in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. No one wants to get bogged down by 35 centuries of history ... Who really has the time, patience or interest to become acquainted with the complex unfolding of events, when Jews, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Christians and eventually Arab Muslims held sway over the territory?

Yet, those same people for whom facts and reality are irrelevant refuse to accept any Jewish claim to the land, historical or otherwise. And, in order to shut up those who do, they resort to blatant acts of bullying, blackmail and intimidation.

Israel is not a perfect country, and it is (of course) legitimate to criticise its actions. Yet the falsehoods levelled against it ... and the whipping up of emotions against it to ensure that those who support it are legitimate targets for condemnation is surely problematic.

One does not have to be a supporter of Israel to deplore how extremists on the other side, such as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and their ilk, are hijacking the conversation with a view to ensuring that only their side is heard. It is something that needs to be condemned across the board, not only as a threat to fundamental democratic freedom, but as an affront to common decency.

Those who care for Israel, in reality, have a lot more support than the current hysteria on Instagram would suggest. For all the ugly invective that dominates social media networks, it is not a true reflection of South Africa’s views on the Middle East.

One sees this in the thousands of people across the South African spectrum who have joined in public rallies in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

Supporters of Israel will not be silent or silenced, regardless of the threats and vilification that they may be subjected to.

• Charisse Zeifert is head of communications for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

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